Chess Merit Badge Tips: The Benefits Of Chess

Chess Merit Badge Tips: The Benefits Of Chess

Mar 10, 2016, 9:19 PM |

Chess affects literacy, math, critical thinking, and life skills.

As scouts play chess, they reinforce skills necessary for academic success and for life! Draw attention to these benefits by exploring the various aspects of chess learning. Then have scouts share with others how chess improves these skills.


  • Set up a simple chess problem with only a few pieces (six or eight at most) on the board.
  • Prepare in advance some sample questions to help the scout see how chess relates to each area.
  • Discuss with the scout other questions that could be asked about that chess problem.
  • Challenge the scout to create his own chess problem and questions.

For example, see the diagram below:


What material is on the board?

Answer: a white king and queen; a black king and rook

Does it matter whose move it is?

Answer: Yes. White to move can checkmate in one move by moving the queen to a8. Black to move can move the rook to a7 giving check. When the white king moves, the black rook can win the queen.

What do you need to know to discuss this position?

Sample answers:

  • How the pieces move and capture.
  • What is the point of the game of chess?
  • What is check? What is checkmate?
  • Here are some sample activities. 


  • How is this chess problem like a story? Who are the characters?
  • How is their location on the board important?
  • Why must you consider the other player’s point of view when solving a chess problem?


  • Show how the movements of two different pieces intersect at a given square.
  • Would you trade a queen for a knight and a pawn? Why not?
  • How might you show this in an equation?
  • Why is knowing chess notation important in discussing the solution of a chess problem?

Critical thinking:

  • What would you need to know to discuss and solve this chess problem?
  • Why did you consider that solution and not another solution?
  • Why is it important to consider alternative solutions?
  • What are the differences between chess and checkers?

Life skills:

  • Why is perseverance important in playing chess or solving a chess problem?
  • Why might a player only look for a solution that wins material rather than finding checkmate?
  • When you lose a game of chess, how do react?
  • Why is it important to learn from your losses?
  • Why do you think players shake hands before and after games at chess tournaments?


  • Hold mall or large group discussions and chessboard demonstration presentations to scouts or at school.
  • Compare chess to a real life situation. You could ask, “Are YOU thinking ahead?”
  • Create a chess problem for your friends to solve. Ask them to compare the process of finding a solution to solving problems at home.